A group of ten Rotarians signed up for this specialty cruise. We had a good time but spent our "debriefing" meeting talking about all of the things that went wrong. My wife and I flew to Seattle and took a shuttle bus to Vancouver. We stayed at the Century Plaza Hotel on Brarrard Street in the downtown area. The hotel was near a very good Thai restaurant and a wine shop. Embarkation was a disaster. There were three ships in port and theMillennium crew did not seem to know how to process large numbers of people. It took over an hour from the time we were dropped off at the pier until we boarded the ship. This was our 25th cruise and our first with Celebrity. The boarding procedure for the Millennium was the most disorganized of all of our cruises.
Once on the ship we managed to find our stateroom. There were no crew members standing at strategic places to guide or direct the passengers to their staterooms. The balcony stateroom was large and well furnished. The bathroom shower was larger than we were used to. The bed had a good quality, firm mattress. The designer of the stateroom put the closets opposite the bathroom door so that it was inconvenient to open both doors at the same time. The amount of shelf space was minimal but adequate for an 8 day cruise. Apparently as a cost cutting move, there was no paper or pen in the room. Our room steward was polite and efficient. We saw very little of him.
The wait staff were very well trained. They were polite, attentive and courteous. I would rate the wait staff as superior. We selected any time dining so that we met a number of waiters and assistant waiters. However we had one assistant waiter who did not ask first before refilling our wine glasses and my wife had had her fill of wine. I had the feeling that the assistant waiter was trying to empty the bottle as quickly as possible rather than pour us what we wanted. We normally finish a bottle over several meals.
The spa was well equipped and had sufficient numbers of treadmills and stationary bikes so that we never had to wait to use one. The Millennium does not have a wrap-around promenade deck for walking and strolling. Instead one had to go up to deck 11 to use the jogging track.
The main deck had a large number of shops, about double what I saw on Princess ships of comparable size. One had to walk past all of the shops (deck 5) or through the casino (deck 4) in order to get to the theater. The path through the casino was especially congested. This is my way of saying that the ship was not designed for passenger ease of tra. FDIC patterns but for something else (?? Merchandizing ??).
The theater was arranged and organized for pairs (2 seats, small table, 2 seats, small table, etc.). There were seats available for every show. The entertainment was average to good. The band was ok but loud. The choreography was good as we're the dance numbers. As occurs on most cruise ships, the repertoire singers were good and not so good. I was startled to see that there were no people of color in any of the entertainment staff. There were plenty people of color in the service and engineering staff. I wonder if this was just coincidence. The time of the shows varied from evening to evening so that one had to rearrange dining times to accommodate the show times. This proved inconvenient for us so that we missed several shows.
The quality of the food was about what one would expect on a cruise. The amount and variety of fruit was below average. The menus were below par in inventiveness. Breakfasts and lunches on deck 10 (sea wave restaurant) were ok. I did not like having servers provide the salad makings and breakfast items rather than self serve. If Celebrity did this for health reasons - fine, but if they were doing this to control costs -----. They had a gourmet sandwich station that was a cross between Subway and Quiznos.
The ship's policy on alcohol was conflicting. Two bottles of wine per stateroom were allowed on board during embarkation day. After that, no bottles were allowed on board during the remainder of the cruise. This was featured as a wine country cruise. The ship had many on board wine events. They even dispensed wine by the ounce and half glass. When I called Celebrity prior to the cruise about restricts of wine, I was told that the ship policy would not change. When we got to San Francisco, the security checks were run by local subcontractors at the pier. They either ignored the ship's policy regarding wine or were not made aware of it. A number of members of our group blithfully boarded the ship with bottles bought in Napa and Sonoma valleys. In Monterey, my group also did a wine tour and brought bottles on board the ship. This time security (x-rays, metal detectors) was done on the ship by ship personnel. I believe that Celebrity did the correct thing in looking the other way and allowing passengers to bring aboard wine. However they missed a golden pr chance by saying no alcohol and then permitting it. Celebrity made their passengers feel like smugglers rather than as proud guests.
Scheduling on the ship created problems. The Cruise Director's staff scheduled and published in the daily program a music trivia. They also booked the same room, at the same time, for a private function. People showing up for the trivia were treated as interlopers and bruskly asked to leave. I have been on other ships when this type of conflicting scheduling occurred. On those other ships, an alternative location for the trivia was located and the staff went out of their way to accept responsibility and to make amends. A second incidence of mistake without accepting responsibility occurred with a public wine tasting event that was advertsed in the daily program. Members of my group showed up only to be told that it was a private event and that they were not welcome and asked to leave immediately. The daily program and scheduling are responsibilities of the Cruise Director. I would not cruise with him again.
Passport control and deboarding in San Francisco was horrible and blame should be laid at the feet of the captain. Arrival was scheduled for 11 am. We were assigned a time to go through passport control with INS. We were told that we could deboarding as soon as we had a sticker affixed to our cruise card. As soon as we passed through passport control (12:20 pm -an hour and 15 minutes after docking) the ship announced that we could not get off the ship until all 2100 passengers had cleared passport control. We finally deboarded about 3 pm (4 hours after docking). The ship blamed the entire process on the immigration service. However, we found out that passengers on ship sponsored tours were allowed off the ship much earlier. The ship had a financial incentive to deboard passengers paying for tours rather than having to refund the tour costs. They did not have the same financial incentive to help their other passengers get off the ship earlier. My group had rented cars and made arrangements for wine tasting in Napa. We had to cancel three stops but managed to have a good time in spite of the mess created by the ship's captain and staff.
We scheduled ship tours in Nanaimo, BC and day 2 in San Francisco. We were not happy with the tours because they changed the itineraries without informing us. In Nanaimo the tour information featured a visit to a cidery. It was removed from the itinerary. In San Francisco, the itinerary included visits to three wineries. The tour only went to one of the advertised wineries and added two others. We were told that the itineraries were changed in January but that the online information at the Celebrity site and the printed brochures had not been changed. No apologies or offer of refunds. No note with tickets regarding the changes. This is simply bait and switch. The tours were ok but not what I had paid for.
Disembarkation also had its problems. They scheduled times for groups to disembark and kept pretty close to schedule. However, the crew did n't get the luggage organized for passenger pick up for about 25 minutes after the disembarkation. So there we were standing around waiting for a barrier to be lifted in order to pick up our luggage. Traffic patterns were set up so that exiting passengers with luggage had to go through the same narrow opening that passengers looking for their luggage had to enter. We flew through customs and exited the pier in San Diego.
In summary, the cruise was good because of our group togetherness, the ship design left something to be desired, the organization on the ship was.terrible. This was our first and last cruise with Celebrity.